Opinion: BC Liberals rideshare plan would increase traffic congestion

Dec 18 2018, 11:16 pm

Written for Daily Hive by Bowinn Ma, NDP MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale. 

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It’s clear that people are frustrated with passenger transportation in BC. I am no stranger to having my blood boil over particularly infuriating experiences, and the status quo is absolutely unacceptable. Fortunately, the BC NDP government passed legislative changes to open the doors to ridesharing (known in the industry as “Transportation Network Services”) last month.

British Columbians have been waiting for ridesharing services since at least 2012, which means that the BC NDP government (formed in July 2017) did in 16 months what the BC Liberals refused to do for 5 years.

The facts of this timeline alone are enough to demonstrate how ludicrous the claims made by MLA Thornthwaite in her December 13th guest column are.

What is clear is that the BC Liberals want to see a free-for-all where companies operate unregulated with no regard for passenger safety or the increase in congestion on our roads – an approach I find irresponsible.

Much has been said about the requirement for drivers to have a Class 4 commercial license, despite the fact that many jurisdictions in Canada already operate with similar safety regulations. It ensures that when you get into a vehicle, you know the driver has had a medical exam, adequate driving experience, and that they have a clean driving record.

Many cities that don’t have these standards, such as Toronto, have started to re-evaluate their lax rules for ridesharing drivers after fatal accidents and other tragic incidents.

Congestion is another major concern. Some people may find the relationship between ridesharing and congestion to be counter-intuitive. We have been told that getting people out of personal vehicles and into ride hailing services reduces the number of cars on the road. However, the findings of recent studies on this topic are unequivocal: with no limits on the number of ride hailing vehicles on the road, congestion substantially increases.

I think anyone living in Metro Vancouver would agree that congestion is already a problem and that we should be doing what we can to reduce it, not increase it.

As a result of congestion, many jurisdictions are now trying to close the barn door after the horses have escaped. New York City, for instance, recently voted to cap ridesharing vehicles, but will face significant difficulties trying to do it after the fact. San Francisco is also grappling with the staggering findings of a recent report on the impact of ridesharing on congestion.

B.C. is benefiting from what these jurisdictions lacked: foresight. Our framework is based on lessons learned, and several experts have praised our approach, calling it “a model for how to regulate ride-hailing for the rest of the world.”

We’ve worked to get this right for B.C. and soon people will have more options for getting around, safely and conveniently.

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